Caring for the Babies in the Coldest Weather on the Homestead

We didn’t have electricity at our house on the farm until about 6 months after the third child was born. The two oldest children were 1 month to 6 weeks preemies. Thank goodness, they arrived in the spring. The third child arrived the end of November and she was a real challenge!

I would bathe the children about mid morning when the house was the warmest, wash their clothes in the bath water. I had the water in a canner on the coal cook stove overnight so it would be nice and warm when I was ready. My husband was very good about seeing to it that it was full before bedtime. We had cloth diapers and there was always a line of diapers in the winter in the “north room” ordinarily the dining room but which was “shut off” in the wintertime.

The baby’s bassinet was a baby buggy that my parents had bought for me when the first one came. I could then roll it to wherever it was the warmest, and also rolled it to next to the bed at night. I was a very light sleeper throughout this time, checking the babies a number of times in the night.

The accumulative stress was such that I never was able to breastfeed the babies beyond the first month. My mother came out with a homemade formula that she had used (developed by a Dr. Fargo of the St. Ann’s orphanage and Foundling home in Columbus, Ohio where she had worked the first five years she was a nurse) which I then made up a couple of days supply at a time using my pressure cooker saucepan. I never told the doctor what I had done, but he always made remarks on how well and healthy my babies were. He said I must have been feeding them Norwegian pancakes. I can’t remember the exact recipe now but it involved browning flour in a iron fry pan, melting butter until the foaming stopped, and then adding sugar and water. This was cooked together in the pressure cooker for one hour. I also cooked the cow’s milk and then mixed it together in a certain proportion when it was time to feed the little ones.

The boys were learning how to crawl right during the coldest months of the year. It was so cold at times in that old house, that the water would freeze on the floor near the door when I scrubbed the floors! I would put a large quilt down on the floor near the wood heater, fence it in with dining room chairs laid on their sides making a play pen. They loved to play with my pots and kettles, especially the oldest child. He quite quickly figured out that the different size lids and pans had a different sound! Just about drove me nuts some days, but it did sure keep him occupied.

Later as the children grew, they used the bed as their playpen. I had a large plywood on which we drew roads and fields and stuff which they then played farming, etc with their toy tractors and cars and animals, etc. They also would play a lot of “pretend” games, one of which I didn’t realize they were doing until the littlest one, the third child at the time about 2 1/2 years of age, came in and said she was no longer a “calf”. I went to look just what they were doing, and here they were playing “sales ring”, one perched on the headboard with a rolled up paper for a “cigar” being the auctioneer, and the other had a little whip that had been made out of a small stick and a shoestring! And then Naomi was the calf and was being “turned around” in the “pen”.

We also did a lot of reading to them, one of their favorites for their Dad to read them was the “little Joey” stories out of the Saturday Evening Post, about these two children living on a ranch with their father and an old hired man, who was also the cook.

At the time I was wondering how I would live through it, and then all of a sudden it seemed, they were ready for school and on their way to being grown up!

 By GrannGen, a member of our Frugal-Families forums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *